Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Triathlon of Traveling!

It's hard to believe that I am in Thailand.  Since rumblings of this trip started, the last six months have flown by.  While it has been exciting to finally be here, it was definitely hard to say goodbye to all my friends and family back in Kansas City, especially Tricia.  Even though I had worked hard to provide multiple means for us to stay in touch, either by FaceTime, Skype, VOIP calls, emails, IM, etc, it didn't make saying goodbye any easier.

The day started as any other day, 5:30 alarm.  I'm pretty sure I had my usual banana & bagel with peanut butter for breakfast.  Instead of getting work clothes on, it was loading up the car with nearly 120 pounds of clothes, shoes, keepsakes, and gadgetry!  

Poor Brodie.  Apparently he's been pretty mopey around the house while I've been gone these first few days.

Tricia and I hung out at the airport for as long as we could.  I decided that as soon my plane had arrived and was unloaded, that would be my cue to go through security and say goodbye.  A hug and kiss and we were on our separate ways.  Mine, however, wasn't a 15 minute drive home but a blurry 28 hours of travel.

Kansas City to Minneapolis
A very short 1.5 hour flight with a 2.5 hour layover.  Nutrition (this is a triathlete's blog, right?) was Bloody Mary mix with a cookie.  My co-work and tavelmate, Peter, settled in at the gate.  Peter went off to find lunch while I was trying to take in the 24 hours.  You can train for a half-ironman but how do you train for something exactly the opposite, sitting in a seat for that long?!  When Peter got back he mentioned there is a currency exchange so I hoped up and purchased $250 worth of Thai Baht, which is about 6,700 Baht.  The exchange rate around 30 to 1, although the currency exchange place took some fees out of that rate.

Minneapolis to Narita, Japan
Our chariot for the second leg.  It was foggy in Minneapolis and delayed our departure in KC by 20 minutes.

The long haul!  Just like a triathlon, the second/bike leg is always the longest.  Peter and I got settled in our seats and I was almost lucky enough to have the seat next to me wide open; however, this was a full flight and it was quickly taken up.  We flew a Boeing 777 and the first wide-body plane that I have flown in since going to Hawaii when I was teenager.  I sat right behind the Business Elite folks with the lay-flat seats.  I am considering paying for an upgrade to those seats for my trip home on this leg.

We had three meals while on this flight. 

I didn't take advantage of this one...

I went with the beef.

Mid-Flight Meal (Lunch): turkey sandwich -- no photo here.  Just use your imagination.

Breakfast (which was really served around 4pm Japan time)
Great fruit selection.  The eggs, sausage, potatoes were OK but my tummy was starting to question me.

I had some website projects to work on so I pretty much kept myself in my computer for about 10 hours of the flight.  

Since we left Minneapolis around 1pm and arrived in Narita at 5pm, we were in the sunlight the entire time.  I closed my windows after dinner and the cabin lights were turned off not too long after that.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep on this flight, I have never been able to sleep on a plane so I just plugged away at the computer.  

I will say that I would highly recommend anyone flying long distance to purchase noise canceling headphones.  I think that saved me from going crazy and, as Peter pointed out, is more comfortable than earbuds.  It doesn't block out the sound completely but it works very well.

Sporting the noise canceling headphones.  Thank you Bose (and Donna from work who recommended these)!

While I messed around on the computer, I put on a few movies via the TV screen located in the seat-back of the chair in front of me:

Hall Pass
Easy A
Adjustment Bureau
The Social Network

I chose a window seat because, well, I wanted to be by the window.  It did have the added benefit that I could put my leg between the seat and wall in front of me to stretch out this 6 foot, 4 inch frame.  The problem is I feel extremely guilty waking up my seat row companions to go to the bathroom but I managed OK.  

We took a northern route and flew through Canada and near Alaska.

The last two hours I didn't really do too much. I pulled out a book on Thailand and the Thai language and looked through it. I pulled up the shade on the window and watched as we flew into Japan.  It was hard to grasp the concept that we were actually flying over a completely new-to-me continent. 

On the tarmac at Narita.  Pretty.

The landing into Narita was very smooth. As soon as we got off the plane it was a quick jaunt over to the next gate to our connecting flight.  It takes much longer to load these nearly 300 passenger vehicles, so they start much earlier.  Since we had Premium Coach seats, we actually did get to use the priority lanes.

In other words, T2 was very quick and efficient.

Narita, Japan to Bangkok, Thaliand
My row only had two seats and I had the window seat.  There was a very nice Thai lady sitting next to me and she asked where I was from.  I immediately said Kansas City.... then Missouri.... then United States.  She spoke very good english and she said she lived in Detroit for the last 36 years.  So that makes sense.  But it just dawned on me that I can't assume anything now.  If I see someone that looks "American" they still likely aren't.

We probably sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes waiting to take off and I could tell I was starting to drift off to sleep.  I had been up for nearly 28 hours at that point.  The seats weren't as comfortable because I couldn't get my backpack under the seat in front of me very much.  The electronics for the in-seat TVs were there.  So I just pulled my backpack under my legs and stretched my feet there instead.  Pillow, blanket and then sleep.  I probably put in an hour and a half before they served dinner.  I had missed the first beverage cart, which was just fine.  I've been drinking water as much as possible and didn't want to drink caffeine.  They served Green Tea with dinner and was very good.  Not sure if this had caffeine in it though.  It didn't stand a chance if it did.   Off to sleep again!

Some beef, rice, and veggie meal.  

This time when I woke up there was a small card hanging from my food tray.  Thankfully Esteb (The third co-worker who was part of this assignment; however, he was flying in a day later) informed us that we would need to fill in immigration paperwork.  You hand this into the customs and it provides them with enough information to let you in without any need for discussion.  Very efficient.

I probably slept a total 3.5 hours on this leg.  When we were a couple hours out of Bangkok, my mind was racing again. This was really happening!  I put on the movie "30 Minutes or Less".  I left the computer in the bag for this leg.  I don't think I could get any quality work in if I had anyway.

I opened up the window shade to see the city as we flew over.  I'm use to lights everywhere when landing in a big city but there really wasn't as much as I expected.  Maybe the airport is far enough away or that's just how it is in non-energy abusing, U.S. cities.  

The landing was smooth again. Once Peter and I deplaned we took off for our luggage, which was behind customs/immigration.  A very long line considering it was after midnight at this point but we didn't have any issues.  Once we found the baggage claim, our luggage was thankfully already spinning around.  

We left the baggage claim area and started looking for a specific spot where our limo was waiting for us, as I was turning around I heard someone calling my name.  It was one of the Thai associates.  There were five of them total waiting for us.  It was so nice to have someone we "knew" there.  Mai, Weep, Ben, Net, and Tam presented us with some candy, work passes, BTS (Bangkok Transit System) passes, cell phones, and books about Thailand and Bangkok.  After some pictures (going to need to get those from Mai to see if I looked awake) and pleasantries, Peter and I went to the car with our luggage.

A 20 minute car ride to our hotel.  It was definitely odd driving/riding on the other side of the road.  Eventually we pulled up to our hotel and checked in.  Signed some paperwork and the bellhop helped us with our luggage.  I am on the 14th floor and Peter is directly above me on the 15th floor.  We both settled in and agreed to talk around 10am the next day.

I finally talked to Tricia over FaceTime, who was sitting in her office.  The video for FaceTime was pretty choppy (and has been since) so doesn't look like that's going to work so well.  I pretty much unpacked one of my bags and then finally hit the bed around 2:30am Saturday (or 1:30pm Friday in KC).

Well, that's pretty much all for now.  It's Sunday evening right now (I've been working on this post off and on since Saturday morning).  I'll start working on my post about our first weekend next!

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